Don’t Ignore Breathing Difficulties in Short-nosed Dogs

Portrait of a pug dog

Unfortunately, the only thing normal about noisy breathing for dogs with “pushed-in” faces is that it is an expected response to a shortened upper jaw, which creates excess soft tissue in the back of the throat.

Some dogs are affected to the point where they experience brachycephalic (the scientific term for breeds with pushed in faces) obstructive airway syndrome or BOAS. If left untreated, problems can get worse to the point where an animal can collapse due to a lack of oxygen.

Owners of affected dogs may be putting them at risk if they do not recognize the problem and seek treatment, according to researchers Rowena Packer, Dr. Anke Hendricks and Dr. Charlotte Burn of the United Kingdom’s Royal Veterinary College.

In their 2012 study, the researchers discovered that owners of such dogs as pugs, English bulldogs, Pekingese, French bulldogs, Boston terriers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Shih tzus and others were not aware of the signs of BOAS. In fact, 58% of surveyed owners said their dogs did not have breathing problems even when more than two-thirds of the dogs showed difficulties during exercise.

What to watch for
According to Packer, while it is not yet known which are the best predictors of BOAS, signs to look for include:

  • Increased and abnormal breathing noise that sounds like snoring, both when the dog is awake and asleep
  • A shortness of breath while exercising or playing
  • Effortful, labored breathing with obvious abdominal movements
  • Interrupting exercise, play or eating to catch their breath
  • Inability to exercise for reasonable periods of time without becoming out of breath
  • Difficulty cooling down after a walk; panting for long periods
  • Physical collapse while exercising
  • Difficulty sleeping and/or periods where the dog stops breathing during sleep
  • Restlessness and difficulty getting comfortable at rest, stretched out head and neck position, forelegs spread and body flat against the floor
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) problems, such as difficulty swallowing, and bringing up food, stomach content or a lot of saliva.

“If you notice these signs, take your dog to your veterinarian for an assessment to learn whether they are compatible with the disease or due to a different problem,” says Hendricks.

“If left to develop,” says Burn, “BOAS can lead to secondary problems due to the effort required to breathe—putting pressure on the voice box, digestive system and heart. In addition, the more severe the breathing problems, the greater the severity of GI signs. They may reflect inflammation of the esophagus, stomach ulcers and, in some cases, hiatal hernias, when part of the stomach can become displaced into the chest cavity during breathing.”

Option for severe BOAS
If your veterinarian believes the dog may have BOAS that requires treatment, he or she may refer you to a veterinary surgical specialist. There, the dog’s airway is likely to be examined under general anesthesia to assess whether it shows the abnormalities associated with BOAS—an elongated soft palate, collapsing voice box and narrowed nostrils.

If present, these abnormalities would be surgically corrected, says Packer. That could mean, for example, that excess tissue in the nose and throat would be removed.

Surgery may improve clinical signs, she says, but the dog may never be “normal,” because of the head structure and is likely to remain susceptible to heat stress.

For severely affected dogs, where significant secondary problems have occurred—for example, severe laryngeal collapse—then treatment choices may be limited. In some cases, either permanent tracheostomy or euthanasia may be recommended.

“That is why it is vital,” says Hendricks, “that owners recognize the clinical signs of BOAS and perceive them to be a ‘problem’ as early as possible, so that these secondary changes can be avoided by early intervention.”

Options for mildly affected dogs
For all dogs, including those that have had surgery or have been determined by a veterinarian to only be mildly affected, owners can help with some lifestyle changes, says Burn. Owners should do the following:

  • Closely monitor the dog to keep it at a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can exacerbate the condition.
  • Use body harnesses rather than collars on walks so the airway is not compressed by a neck collar if the dog pulls at the leash.
  • Avoid walking on hot or humid days. On particularly warm days, keep dogs calm and indoors in a cool, aerated room with access to water.
  • Avoid having dogs in particularly stressful or exciting situations.

 

Originally published by Healthy Pet.

What is the FURminator?

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If your pet is a shedder, you need to try the FURminator. As pet owners ourselves, we know how quickly that pet hair adds up in the home, covering furniture and clothing and even getting into our food! Vacuuming is time-consuming and counterproductive at times—you clean the whole house, but the source, your dog or cat, is still shedding!

That’s where the FURminator comes in. The FURminator is a comb that has been specially designed remove the loose fur in your pet’s undercoat where the shedding fur typically originates. This tool does not cut or damage the coat at all, ensuring that your pet isn’t losing more fur than they can stand to lose, but instead it pulls away the fur that was going to fall out and scatter around your home anyway!

How Does the FURminator Reduce my Pet’s Shedding?

The FURminator tool is only designed to be used on pets with double hair coats, such as Golden Retrievers, one of the most popular shedders! The teeth in the comb are positioned to rake out the loose undercoat, removing the hair that has already come loose and will be shed.

The FURminator should be used on your pet 1-2 times per week for approximately 10-20 minute sessions, but may be used more frequently during heavy shedding seasons, including springtime. Be extra careful around ears and tail though as these areas are often more sensitive!

Where Can I Get the FURminator?

The FURminator is sold in various sizes, depending on your pet’s size, and can be found at all three of our animal hospital locations. You can pick it up at River Oaks Animal Hospital, Pet Care Center of Apopka, or East Lake Animal Clinic! If you have questions about this tool or hope to see it in action, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help!